Monday, March 7, 2011

Diminishing Marathon Returns?

I remember the first time I baked a bread.

I’d been craving some sweet potatoes something awful, but since Mrs. LB is not exactly a baker, I was left to fill that craving on my own. So I did and I made a fantastic loaf of Sweet Potato Bread. I was so excited. I showed it off to Mrs. LB and she was enthused (at least, she pretended to be enthused). I was still glowing a few days later when I made another loaf.

After awhile, though, it became less thrilling and more of an expectation. I wasn’t wondering what the bread would turn out like. I knew what it would turn out like and thus when it came out of the oven, I wasn’t saying “Yeah! Look what I did!” but rather “Looks good.” It was, and is, a much more subdued reaction.

The law of diminishing returns took effect. I mean, you can only draw from the well so many times before something loses its luster, right?

So far, that law has not affected my marathons but it has curtailed some of the excitement from my running feats.

The first time I ran outside? Nervous, but I did it! The last time I ran outside? My feet hurt, but you got it done.

The first time I ran 10 miles? Excited! What an accomplishment! The last time I ran 10 miles? Double digits, baby.

My first race? I can’t believe I’m doing this! Look at me, running a 5K! My last race? I can’t believe I’m doing this. I don’t like 5Ks, but eff it, let’s get a PR.

Will that happen with marathons? Will I change the way I think about my marathons? Well, how do I think about them now? Let’s see. I think they are the ultimate challenge for me, a true mental and physical test. I can’t hide anything during a marathon – either I’ve trained well and will rise to the challenge or I will crash and burn, probably shedding a few tears of embarrassment in the process. Finishing marathons, though, has been some the most thrilling, satisfying, rewarding moments of my life, period. And no matter what happens, nobody can ever take that away from me.

So… will those thoughts change?

I have this bad habit, see. When I do something or achieve something, it becomes like less of a fea. I didn’t have the greatest amounts of self-esteem growing up, so before if I were to, say, get an A on a test or in a class, to me it wouldn’t seem like that big of a deal because me getting an A meant the test or class was easy. How else would I get an A? If I can do it, then it’s not a big deal because I’m not special. That’s what I used to think like, but obviously that’s changed. Not everyone can drop 120 pounds, particularly with just eating right and exercising.

I suppose I do have that going for me. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my weight loss. The law of diminishing returns hasn’t yet hit my weight loss.

I do fear, though, that if I run enough marathons that I will revert back to my old self and think “Big deal, another marathon.” And not only that, perhaps the joy of finishing one and having accomplished the task of running a marathon will be outweighed by the grueling training. It's one thing right now for me to be willing to sacrifice myself for so many Sundays in order to achieve that marathon glory, but what if at some point I'm no longer willing.

I don’t think that will happen.

I can’t imagine ever thinking of a marathon as just another distance.

But… what if?


thrasherswife said...

Love love love this post. You are so right on! But never having ran a marathon i cant even imaging thinking less of it in any way.. I'm continually MORE in awe of your running progress with each run be it a mud run, a 5k or a marathon - you continue to shine in my mind!!!

Jill said...

I've run 17 marathons and I love every one of them. For me, I can't really PR anymore, I've run too long and I'm way too old, but I love the training and I love the camaraderie...I miss it so much right now. I hope you never lose the marathon light...but I don't think you will! :)

Morgan said...

Great post LB! I honestly can't imagine ever thinking "just another marathon"... there's too much put into the training of and running a marathon that I will forever have a healthy dose of fear and respect for the distance. Running in general? Sure there are days it gets old but when you're in training there's always something to strive for and achieve.

Kerrie T. said...

Great post, LB!

I can't speak for experience or anything. Just wanted to compliment you on the post. :)

misszippy said...

I think this is a great point. If, and when it happens, you'll know it's time to move on. Another distance, another sport, who knows?

Willoughby said...

I don't think marathons will lose their shine for you anytime soon. Eventually, maybe they won't be as exciting, but that's okay, because I suspect you will be focusing your energy on something new that you love just as much. Rock climbing, kayaking, biking, hang gliding....the possibilites are endless.

Michael said...

I think there is always some new goal you can add - run it faster, run it without music, run a more challenging course....etc - you can keep it fresh.

tahoegirl said...

I don't think you will get to that point. You can always find something new and exciting to make it more of a challenge if it becomes less of one.

You could coach someone to their first marathon.

You could run a marathon through Death Valley.

You could run a marathon in the snow. GASP!